The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:
I’m a woman in my 20s. I used to work for a major information technology company as a temporary worker dispatched by a personnel agency. While at the company, I turned down some work after a male employee who had told me to do the work with him touched my body.
Afterwards, my work contract with the company was terminated. I feel this is unreasonable and still can’t accept it.
I was assigned mainly to manage and write reports on the progress of a project. Also, at the request of the male employee, who was in his 40s, I accompanied him on visits to explain the project to clients.
After a while, he began asking me to have a drink with him. The second time we went for drinks, he touched my body. I was so scared that I didn’t accept any more of his invitations. My work was then assigned to another temporary worker.
I noticed he regarded female temporary workers only as women. I was shocked and felt as if my value as a worker was being denied. I told the company via the personnel agency that it was not necessary for me to accompany the man to visit clients. I was then virtually dismissed on the grounds that there was no work for me on the project.
As a woman, I feel that working as a temporary worker involves difficulties that can’t be solved simply by hard work and dedication.
Dear Ms. W:
There are some people who don’t mind at all when their body is touched. Others are able to dodge such behavior. However, you felt more than uncomfortable, and even scared. I think the man’s behavior constitutes malicious sexual harassment that exploits the weak position of temporary workers. Both personnel agencies and the companies to which they dispatch temporary workers are legally obligated to prevent sexual harassment, and doing nothing to stop it is illegal.
According to your letter, however, you just declined via the personnel agency to go with the employee to visit clients. It is probable the agency didn’t clearly report the sexual harassment to the company and the company simply evaluated your work attitude as passive.
You probably hesitated to inform the company openly for fear that it may terminate your work contract. But in its employment regulations and other rules, the company certainly bans unfair treatment of workers in response to their reporting on damage suffered at work.
It may encourage you to know that some people in a position similar to yours have filed and won lawsuits. So that their efforts will not be in vain, you should not silently tolerate a similar incident in the future, but instead do all you can while following formal procedures. You may also need evidence of wrongdoing in the form of written notes or voice recordings.
You are not to blame. Society can be improved little by little if we all refuse to forgive wrongdoing.
Hazuki Saisho, writer